US airmen aid burned Chinese sailors in high seas rescue

WASHINGTON - US airmen parachuted into the Pacific Ocean to help Chinese sailors who suffered burns when their ship sank, the US Air Force said Monday.

The drama played out Friday about 1,100 nautical miles off the coast of Mexico, as the Chinese seamen abandoned ship and boarded life rafts, until they were picked up by a Venezuelan fishing boat, the Florida-based Air Force Rescue Coordination Center said.

Parachutists from a US unit called Guardian Angel flew 11 hours from their base in Arizona to drop into the sea with inflatable boats and board the Venezuelan ship with medical gear to help the burned sailors.

The air force did not specify exactly how many sailors were on the Chinese vessel but it appeared to be around a dozen.

Of four sailors who suffered burns, two later died. Their bodies were transferred along with unhurt colleagues to a Chinese-flagged vessel to return to China.

The surviving burn victims were to be flown via Mexico to a burn treatment center in San Diego, California, the rescue center said.

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